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Sep 6, 2007

Launch of Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD ASIA)

On August 19, 2007, a group of drugs users from across Asia launched the first regional network for people who use drugs in Asia under the title “International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD - ASIA)”. The event was held during the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific’s Community Forum at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.

INPUD ASIA is chaired by Anan Pun, a founding member of Recovering Nepal, a national network of drug users in Nepal. Mr. Pun, with support from the Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN), traveled to Sri Lanka to invite his Asian constituents to unite their efforts at improving the health and social care of people using and recovering from drug dependence by joining the network.

“Through INPUD Asia, drugs user communities in the region will be able to get support for activities such as advocacy and strengthen capacity of drug user representatives. We hope that this network will lead to greater inclusion of drug user communities in the Universal Access framework and improvements in addressing their needs. Ultimately, the Network should lead to positive changes and reduction of vulnerability to HIV among drug users” said Mr. Pun.

Evidence suggests that the Asian epidemic and its growth have been the result of preventable HIV transmission cases among injecting drug users. Out of the 7.4 million recorded people living with HIV in Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar and parts of India, Pakistan and China, more than half inject drugs. An estimated 6.5 million persons currently inject drugs in Asia and in some areas, 89% of new HIV cases are attributable to injection drug use.

Out of the USD 8.3 billion available in 2006 to respond to HIV across the world, its prevention among injecting drug users requires as little as USD 200 million per year. As a matter of common sense, priority in the response should be to curb transmission where it is most rapidly spreading, where there are fewest services to address needs, where those most vulnerable face poverty, prejudice, criminalization, marginalization, stigma and discrimination in a negatively reinforcing relationship, where the very concept of human rights is foreign and alien, both among civil society and in governments, where resources can be invested most effectively, and where national resources are scarce and corruption is institutionalized – among Asian drug users. Yet, the situation of Asian drug users is dire with harm reduction service coverage dropping from 5.4% in 2003 to 3% in 2005.

While injecting drug use remains the most important – and unaddressed – vector for HIV transmission in Asia, drug users are rarely consulted and involved in determining how to meet their own needs. INPUD Asia will therefore provide a strong mechanism for representation and involvement of people using drugs across Asia through advocacy, education and networking.

It is with this in mind that the drug users and their representatives from Nepal and Thailand discussed the urgent need to decriminalize drug users and harmonize drug control and HIV policies. Without such changes in the political and legal environment, it will be near impossible to deliver an effective and comprehensive package of services and respect users’ fundamental right to heath. This in turn led participants to highlight that Universal Access and other national platforms were not comprehensive at present since those systematically have failed in addressing hepatitis C (HCV). High rates of untreated HCV among IDU communities – not HIV or related opportunistic infections – is resulting in the deaths of several injecting drug users in Asia while HCV treatment remains too expensive to even contemplate.

Participants also noted that the focus on injecting instead of simple drug use leads to serious challenges in Asia. Colleagues from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea noted that funding and support to address the widespread use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and alcohol is almost inexistent. Other colleagues from Indonesia and Sri Lanka also noted that there was an important dirge of drug prevention and treatment services addressing the special needs of girls and women. Finally, participants called for the local generic manufacture of substitution drugs like buprenorphine and methadone – both on WHO’s Essential Drug List since 2005 – and the costly drugs to treat HCV.

Further information, please contact
Pascal Tanguay (AHRN):
Fredy (INPUD):
Anan Pun (INPUD): /


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